Try Again
Times Daily
Published: May 13, 2008

THE ISSUE

The Legislature killed a bill that would have allowed voters to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention to replace Alabama's heavily amended governing document.

Once again, voters have been denied the opportunity to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention to replace Alabama's much-amendment constitution.

The Legislature allowed a bill that would have placed the question on statewide ballots to die during the current session, which ends next week. There is no chance it will be considered on the last day.

It's disappointing to watch lawmakers squabble and generally waste valuable tax dollars while issues that could affect the future of the state languish in committee or fail to be debated. Clearly, legislators don't believe the state's governing document is broken and they certainly don't have any plans to ask their constituents their opinion of the constitution.

Alabama's constitution, adopted in 1901, vests virtually all political power in the Legislature. It was written by and for a group of wealthy land owners, protecting special interests and making it difficult to fund and provide basic services. Local governments - especially county commissions - have little real power and must seek permission from the Legislature to set most tax rates. The unbalanced power formula also explains why the Legislature accomplishes so little of any significance: it is too busy dealing with local matters to attend to the more pressing issues of the state as a whole.

One of the most common arguments against writing a new constitution - and it's even used by some legislators - is that "special interests" would take control of the process. Who do these critics think is in control of the Legislature now? That argument doesn't hold up under close examination, and it shouldn't be used to block voters from deciding whether they want to start over with a new constitution.

The opportunity to allow the people to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention has been buried again by the Legislature. We encourage proponents of the ballot question to keep trying.

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